“Shame is a soul eating emotion.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung
What’s your secret? You know…the thing that causes you such intense shame and embarrassment you just know you’ll die if anyone else finds out! It might be that thing that happened years ago that you can’t ever live down. Or it could be an undefined feeling of failure because authority figures in your past used shame to “discipline” you. Whatever the cause, this kind of toxic shame can be healed.
Toxic shame gnaws at a person. It can consume you and destroy your self-worth and self-confidence. It makes you feel unlovable and unworthy. You become so busy beating yourself up you can’t be fully present in the moment or see the opportunities right in front of you. I appreciate how Brené Brown likens it to a corrosive element like rust or acid:
“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
A milder form of shame isn’t necessarily a problem as it simply informs you that you can learn from the experience at hand. However, toxic shame is insidious and keeps you trapped. Let’s clarify, too, that toxic shame is different from guilt. Guilt arises from a negative evaluation of your behavior, while shame arises from a negative evaluation of you as a person. Guilt is the feeling of doing wrong, and can motivate you to change your behavior. Shame is the toxic feeling of being wrong leading to the hopeless cry of “Why try?” You end up saying things like:
- I’m so stupid.
- I can’t do anything right!
- I’m always saying or doing the wrong thing.
- What’s wrong with me?
- I’m so fat and ugly.
- I can’t go, because I don’t want anyone seeing me like this.
- I’m such a mess.
- I hate myself.
Toxic shame is responsible for worsening anxiety, depression or other mental and emotional disorders. It triggers unhealthy and destructive behaviors, such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and drinking, self-harming and cutting.
If you find yourself in a cycle of ruminating and reliving shameful episodes in your life, what can you do to break out of this destructive toxic shame pattern?
- Call the bully out! People who shame others are bullies. (Note: You could be bullying yourself with shame-filled, negative self-talk.) No, you don’t have to confront the bullies in your life. Simply reframe their abusive remarks as bullying, not truths. In that way you begin the process of being objective and you can lessen the power that episode has over you.
- Expose toxic shame to the light. Shame thrives in secrecy, but can’t survive in the open. If you try to suppress it, it grows. However, if you think or talk about whatever is making you feel ashamed, although painful at first, you’ll soon feel much less ashamed. Just be cautious of who you reveal your shame to. As Brené Brown says, “If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.”
- Write it out, if you can’t talk about it. Without censoring yourself, let your thoughts flow onto the paper. It’s especially helpful if you write it as if you’re writing a letter to the “shame bully”, although you won’t actually mail it to them. Then put it away in a safe place and go for a walk and review how you make life better for those around you. When you come back, review your written words objectively. More often than not, some of the sting will have eased.
- Ramp up your positive emotions. Fill up on gratitude, hope and courage. It will leave little or no room for sadness, fear and disgust, which are the negative emotions that produce shame.
- Turn your toxic shame into healthy pride. Focus on the good person that you are and all the good things that you do. If you have trouble seeing good in yourself, ask trusted friends what they most appreciate about you as a person.
- Be compassionate with yourself. You are a work in progress. Trust that you will get better at letting go of shame the more you mindfully practice your shame-busting skills.
NLP reframing is a great tool for ridding yourself of toxic shame and rebuilding confidence, hope and courage. It works best when a skilled, caring person helps you. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you add this tool to your life skills toolkit.
“The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting personal responsibility for our circumstances, we greatly reduce our power to change them.” ~ Steve Maraboli
A husband and wife were driving through an unfamiliar section of the city. She read the map and told him to turn left or right at the intersections. He faithfully followed her every direction, until finally she wailed, “Now YOU”VE gotten me lost!” True story? Yes. (It wasn’t my honey and me, it was an acquaintance of mine.) It just illustrates that we, as humans, are quick to blame others for the results of our own actions. We take offense instead of taking personal responsibility.
People have become very confused about how to respond to life, because of conflicting messages they’ve received since childhood. For example:
- It’s common to praise children for everything, which can inflate the ego and instill a mentality of, “I’m entitled. The world owes me”.
- Parents make excuses for their children and blame the teachers, when the child gets in trouble or under performs.
- Rather than learning that actions have consequences, many young adults get bailed out of their problems, so they never learn resilience or what their own strengths are.
- We’re told “you’re entitled to your feelings and to let it all out”, without learning how to responsibly manage those emotions productively.
- We’re taught to stand up for ourselves and not be doormats. However, by not giving an inch we hear feedback as criticism from which we must defend ourselves.
We’ve lost our sense of humor and take ourselves too seriously. Becoming offended over real and imagined slights has grown into a problem of epidemic proportions. We see evidence of this in the irritation, sarcasm, hostility, resentment, pouting, grudges, rants, rioting, assaults, road rage, “going postal”, school shootings, and even terrorist attacks.
Here are some things people say in order to avoid taking personal responsibility:
“It’s not my fault!” While excusing ourselves, we hold others to an impossibly high standard.
“It’s not fair!” Because we fail to develop gratitude, we compare our life to others and become embittered and perceive the good others experience as a personal grievance.
“It’s his fault!” Shifting blame, when things go wrong, is easy.
“He started it!” When someone slights you, you respond by giving him the cold shoulder. Your own hurtful behavior is okay, because he did it first.
“He’s out to get me!” It’s all about us. We don’t make allowances for others’ good intentions. Instead we cynically search for their “sinister” reason.
If you want inner peace, cultivating the habit of personal responsibility is vital. I love how Iyanla Vanzant puts it:
“One of the greatest challenges in creating a joyful, peaceful and abundant life is taking responsibility for what you do and how you do it. As long as you can blame someone else, be angry with someone else, point a finger at someone else, you are not taking responsibility for your life.”
Taking personal responsibility for the good and the bad in your life is one of the most empowering things you will ever do. Only then can you shape your future. Consider this: the word responsibility is made up of two words…response and ability. That means you have the ability to mindfully choose your response to whatever happens. As Viktor E. Frankl said,
“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Taking personal responsibility is a habit you can cultivate over time. It’s like a muscle memory. You do it often enough, it will become automatic. So it’s up to you to decide. What kind of person do you want to be? If taking responsibility is important to you, start with these suggestions…
- Before responding, honestly ask yourself, “What part did I play in this situation? How did I make it worse? How could I have made it better?”
- Recognize your own limitations. You’re not perfect, so give yourself some slack and avoid becoming defensive and prickly, when others point out your “faults”. Accept it with grace and humor. And give others some slack too.
- Sincerely apologize for your actions or your lack of actions.
- Welcome feedback and learn from it. Even if you think it’s undeserved, you can find something positive in it, if you look hard enough.
- Look for the good in others and don’t impute wrong motives. If you’re suspicious, respectfully ask them why they said or did something, rather than jumping to negative conclusions.
- Accept your life, without judgment and resignation, rather than wishing things were different. View today as a starting point from which you can create something better.
- Let go of the past. You have the choice and the power to change your future.
Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we’re not taking personal responsibility for our actions. If you’d like to enhance your emotional intelligence and communication skills, so you can turn even the most trying situations into positive outcomes, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). You can do this!
“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.” – Rachel Naomi Remen
This time of year can be so stressful. Dark winter days, end of year demands, and celebrations with family who delight in pushing your buttons can all add up to unwanted stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can learn how to understand, manage and take control of what pushes your buttons.
In the English language, there are so many ways to express how people set off your emotional triggers – pushing your buttons, getting your goat, rattling your cage, yanking your chain, throwing you off your game. And therein lies the truth of the whole matter…when you react badly to an event, it is common to blame the event or other person for your emotional reaction. “He makes me mad. She upset me. If that hadn’t happened…I wouldn’t have…”
While it may feel good to blame someone else, you’re cheating yourself of an opportunity to get to know yourself better and to change any behavior that is no longer serving you. When you think about it, this is tremendous. You have the power to turn off all of those buttons or emotional triggers. However, it will take a great deal of mindful effort to discover your untapped pools of inner strength and courage.
Emotional triggers are a manifestation of your own beliefs, feelings or views. That’s why my emotional triggers are different from what pushes your buttons. Yes, I still have some! Common ones revolve around:
- Disrespecting personal space
- False accusation
- Being interrupted
- Being ignored
We all have emotional triggers. You do and so do the people you encounter. It’s vital to be accepting of this fact. It doesn’t work to expect perfection from ourselves or others.
An emotional trigger is an experience that draws you back into the past and causes old feelings and behaviors to surface. For example, there may have been a time you were required to do something you didn’t want to do, but were forced to do it by an authority figure. Or you may have lacked confidence, so you couldn’t say “No!” Now when you hear a demand, it triggers an unfavorable emotional response, even if it’s really just a poorly worded request.
How you think of yourself on the inside dictates how you behave and are perceived on the outside. Your unwanted emotional reactions can make you think that you’re weak and hopeless. But that isn’t the case at all!
When your buttons have been pushed and you feel yourself losing control, take a deep breath and mindfully let your mind sort through the event to see what’s really bothering you and what belief you can change to regain your emotional control.
Examine the situation that triggers your emotional reaction. You have three options for dealing with it: change the situation; change how you think and feel about the situation; or remove yourself from the situation.
Maybe you’re not in a position to immediately examine your emotions. What can you do then? Before the day ends, go to a quiet place and reflect on the episode. You might even want to journal about it, to gain the greatest clarity. Don’t edit yourself as you write. Just pour it all out. This will be most revealing. You’ll also have a written record that allows you to track behaviors or habits that you want to change.
When you know you have an emotional trigger, don’t avoid it; challenge yourself and keep trying to manage it. Plan how you’ll respond next time. “If Situation B arises I will do XYZ. This course of action supports my need to have a choice and be appreciated!”
Of course, you’ll want to be loving, kind and patient with yourself as you peel back your emotional layers. It will take time to make adjustments to your beliefs, feelings and values. Work at building a strong foundation of mental energy and physical wellness, as well as a supportive network of people; then you’ll be able to unplug those emotional triggers and turn off what pushes your buttons.
I’d love to be part of your supportive network. It’s one of my life’s pleasures to use Somatic Coaching to help my clients gain emotional freedom and reach their fullest potential in life. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
Do you remember that time when you “got up from the wrong side of bed” and the bad mood persisted all day long? You felt like you should go back to bed and stay there, right? And then there are other days where good things just keep rolling in, like you’re a magnet for all the good in the Universe. Why can two days be so different? You’re the same person, aren’t you? Actually, you’re not.
Every day we put ourselves in a different emotional and mental state. For example, you go to bed fired up about tomorrow’s project, so you wake early, eager to jump out of bed. If, on the other hand, you go to bed worn out, grumpy, and anxious, the chances are the next day isn’t going to go so well.
What you do and how you feel is determined by the state you’re in. Your emotions and attitudes control everything in your life — your mood, your decisions, your actions. So the big question is: if you start the day in a negative state, how do you switch over to a positive state?
I love the Emotional Triad that Tony Robbins came up with. It helps us visualize how to become grounded and achieve our center. The idea is to try to keep the three sides of your Emotional Triangle in balance. The good news is that we can learn to mindfully change and manage each pattern or behavior that throws us off balance.
What is the Emotional Triad? Visualize a triangle that has these three sides printed on it…
Emotional Triad Side 1: What are you doing with your body? Tony names this side “Physiology.”
We are somatic creatures – our emotions affect our bodies and vice versa. If you improve your posture, you’ll experience a feeling of confidence and alertness. If you slump, your mood will slump. Try it right now. Stand up straight and breathe deeply. Reach your arm in an upwardly sweeping motion. Smile. Dance in place. Observe how this body movement changes your emotions. This knowledge is powerful!
Emotional Triad Side 2: What are you focusing on or believing? Tony names this side “Focus.”
As Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Focus on the positive and set your intention on what’s important to you. Don’t let your mind wonder to the “what if,” or the “I can’t,” or the “I’m not.” Visualize the powerful and competent person you are and want to be. By setting your focus on the positive, your mental and emotional state will shift.
Emotional Triad Side 3: What are you saying to yourself? Tony names this side “Language.”
Name calling, second guessing, doubting, criticizing, blaming – these do not build good relationships with other people, so why would you talk to yourself that way and destroy your relationship with yourself? Cultivate greater awareness of the words and tone you use when you engage in self-talk. Do you see patterns of self-hatred or self-abuse? Then switch out that word, phrase or tone to one that shows self-compassion and self-love.
Get into the habit of mindfully assessing your Emotional Triad and change what isn’t promoting the positive emotional and mental state you desire. If one side of your Emotional Triad isn’t as strong as you want it to be, I’d love to work with you to strengthen it! Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
“Whatever good things we build end up building us.” ~ Jim Rohn
I love stability, don’t you? It’s kind of like driving. We want our cars to ride smoothly, but there are always bumps in the road. That’s why we need emotional stability. Like shock absorbers, being emotionally stable allows us to withstand and handle adversity while we still keep moving forward.
However, because life is always changing, it’s vital to have a system for fully experiencing the highs, the lows and everything in between.
For day-to-day stresses, you can maintain emotional stability by using methods such as meditation, becoming more mindful, exercise and restorative sleep.
But life often throws things at us that we’re not prepared to handle. People are confronted with tragic circumstances like life-changing health issues, death of a loved one, divorce, physical and/or sexual abuse, violence, accidents, and so much more. We’re not born knowing how to deal with these things. And it’s quite possible that no one in your immediate family or circle of friends has had to deal with them either, so they can’t help you.
If you’ve experienced an emotional crisis that has thrown you completely off balance, what can you do to regain emotional stability?
A momentary lapse in behavior does not make you emotionally unstable. The emotional instability I’m talking about is caused by a lifetime of repressed emotions, tamping them down instead of experiencing emotions in a healthy manner. That’s when we become unstable and ungrounded.
It’s like a thorn in your finger that leads to an infection, except it’s an emotional splinter in your heart and soul. It’s always raw and sore. It limits what you can do, because you’re preoccupied with the wound. And since you tell yourself that it’s ugly, you try to keep it hidden.
How can you clear out emotional debris?
You can’t just dig around your festering wound superficially. That would be like getting part of the thorn out, but leaving the tip. You must get to the bottom of it and fully feel the entire range – the breadth and depth of your emotion. Painful? Yes! But that’s the way healing occurs.
Many people keep their calendars so booked that they don’t have time to think. I suggest you clear some time, perhaps even devoting the next year to making your emotional hygiene a priority. Make the commitment to take time to experience your emotions fully as they arise. In that way, you can develop a reliable system for emotional stability.
Developing or regaining emotional stability will not happen overnight. It’s going to take time and practice. Your progress will depend on how long you can sit with your deeply disturbing emotions like sadness, anger, or fear.
Here’s how to do it: Each time you feel a wave of that emotion, find a quiet place by yourself and go deeply into it. If you’re feeling sad, think about the saddest things in your life. Then just cry it out until there’s nothing left. (If the thought of doing this frightens you or if you’re struggling with PTSD, depression or anxiety, please consult with a mental health care professional who can support you through this process.)
The point is to start by thinking of the ugliest, most painful thoughts and letting that feeling take you over and flow out through your tears, thoughts, and breaths. Once you’ve released that emotion, you can go on with your day. You’ll discover that each wave of emotion, on average, only lasts 90 seconds.
As you crash through each emotional wave, you’re closer to calmness and serenity. Learning the process of experiencing emotions fully makes life easier. It allows you to experience new emotions without them taking over your whole day. You can get past it without doing damage to yourself or others.
Regaining emotional stability after a crisis is much easier when you have a safe place to be heard and supported. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you practice greater awareness and coping techniques.